Playwright Sandy Lam, whose parents emigrated from Vietnam, grew up in Houston before studying English and psychology at the University of Texas. Her third play, "So Lucky," runs March 13-21 at Ground Floor Theatre.
It is directed by Thanh Bui, who hails from Boston and Houston and studied sociology and psychology while minoring in Asian American studies and English at UT. The artists met performing in the annual student Madrigal Dinner, which is a theatrical experience in itself.
We chatted outside at Epoch Coffee on Anderson Lane.
American-Statesman: What draws you to telling stories?
Sandy Lam: Telling stories helps me make sense of things, whether that be cultural identity or just living life. I like to tell stories that I haven’t seen out in the world yet. Growing up, I didn’t often see characters like my family or friends or me.
What’s the basic narrative in "So Lucky"?
It is about an Asian American woman planning her city’s first Lunar New Year festival. It also explores mental health and family and intergenerational conflict. It has several different timelines. In the present, we see her planning the Lunar New Year Festival and the difficulty of doing that. She struggles with getting community support around it. In the past, we see her childhood growing up and the tension between her and her mom, and her relationship with her older sister, who has depression.
Is it autobiographical at all?
Yeah, in bits, in parts. Some of it is lifted from my life. In the opening scene, my character is arguing with her mom because she doesn’t want to go Chinese school to learn the language. That’s a real thing that happened to me, but in the play, it happens a little bit different. I also struggle with mental illness, so the subject is close and personal as well.
Has working on the play helped you?
It’s been a little bit of both, because I’m also producing. So while I’m struggling with my mental illness, I’m also holding down a 40-hour-a-week job and producing a play. We are Sad Girls Productions, and this is our first play out in the community.
How did it end up at Ground Floor Theatre?
We shopped around for a long time for the right space. They are hard to find in Austin right now. We went to an acting class there. We liked what we saw. One thing that stood out was that they used (American Sign Language) interpreters during class. So we contacted co-artistic director Lisa Scheps to see if they had two weeks in March that were available, and that worked out.
Who should see this play?
Everybody. Even though there is a focus on Asian American issues, there are parts that anyone can relate to. Figuring out yourself, for instance. Other people might have hard relationships with their families, too. So, people who are artists or writers or feel things a lot.
Has your family read the play?
They don’t know about it. (Laughs.) We did a table reading of the show a few months ago, and that question came up. I’m just not at a level of comfort with my family, and I’m OK with that. And this is partly for people who might not have that level of comfort with their families.
MORE FROM AUSTIN360
Museum in Georgetown to host monthly ghost tours
Texas Film Awards: Kaitlyn Dever, Michael Murphy cancel Austin travel plans
SXSW canceled: How the Paramount is filling its seats